Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Lost City of Z


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"This search for Z, I can no longer bear the cost." "You've come to doubt its existence?" "No. I only doubt that Z will provide all the answers you seek from it." That's a part of a scintillating conversation between Robert Pattinson & Charlie Hunnam in The Lost City of Z, an absolutely stunning modern epic. The film is based on the 2009 book The Lost City of Z by David Grann, which documented the true story of explorer Percy Fawcett. Set between 1905-1925, Hunnam plays Col. Percy Fawcett, a young British officer asked by the Royal Geographical Society to go to the Amazon to solve a border dispute between Bolivia & Brazil. On the way to Brazil, Fawcett meets Cpl. Henry Costin (played by Robert Pattinson), who has knowledge of the Amazon rainforest. In the Amazon, Fawcett is told of an ancient lost city in the jungle filled with people & covered in gold. The city is referred to as "Z." Fawcett is skeptical at first, but finds some evidence of it, & becomes convinced to find it.

Fawcett retruns to London & his family: his wife Nina (played by Sienna Miller); his oldest son, Jack (played by Tom Holland); & his youngest son, Brian (played by Daniel Huttlestone). Fawcett is praised by the people, but the Royal Geographical Society ridicules him. Eventually, Percy goes back, but he doesn't find Z, destroying Fawcett's reputation. Eventually, in 1925, Fawcett returns to the Amazon for a third time, this time with Jack & without Costin, but something happens during the search that changes everything.

The cast is amazing. James Gray's direction & screenplay is amazing. The cinematography by Darius Khondji is stunning. The editing by John Axlerad is excellent. The costume desaign by Sonia Grande is amazing. And the production design by Jean-Vincent Puzos is phenomenal. This is one of the best films of the year so far.

The Circle


½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"It's the chaos of the web made elegant." That's a horrendous quote from Emma Watson in The Circle, the worst film of the year so far. The film is based on the 2013 novel The Circle by Dave Eggers. Watson plays Mae Holland, a young woman stuck in a dead-end job as a customer service rep. She lives with her mother, Bonnie (played by Glenne Headly), & her father, Vinnie (played by Bill Paxton), who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Also, her ex-boyfriend/friend, Mercer (played by Ellar Coltrane) wants to get back together with Mae. Through her friend, Annie Allerton (played by Karen Gillan), Mae gets a job at a tech company called The Circle, which is basically Apple, Google & Facebook put together. At The Circle, she meets the founders: Eamon Bailey (played by Tom Hanks); Tom Stenton (played by Patton Oswalt); & Ty Lafitte (played by John Boyega). Eventually, Mae ascends to the top of The Circle, but she finds something very sinister going on.

The cast is mediocre. James Ponsoldt's direction is terrible. And the screenplay by Ponsoldt & Dave Eggers is putrid. This film had a lot of ambition, the premise was interesting, & the cast & crew made this look great, with James Ponsoldt's last 2 films, 2013's The Spectacular Now & 2015's The End of the Tour, receiving critical acclaim & were some of my favorite films of those years; however, all of those 3 combined failed to make a film that could've been great, & instead made one of the worst films of the decade so far.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Free Fire



★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Ugh, men." That's a hilarious quote from Brie Larson in Free Fire, one of the most insane films I've ever seen. Set in 1978 Boston, Larson plays Justine, a partner in an arms deal. Justine, along with Ord (played by Armie Hammer), Chris (played by Cillian Murphy), Stevo (played by Sam Riley), Bernie (played by Enzo Cilenti), & Frank (played by Michael Smiley), are buying guns from noted arms dealer Vernon (played by Sharlto Copley), & his associates: Martin (played by Babou Ceesay); Harry (played by Jack Reynor); & Gordon (played by Noah Taylor). The deal hits a snag when it is revealed that the wrong guns were being presented; however, Justine's group takes the weapons. However, another problem occurs: Harry beat up Stevo the night before after Stevo abused Harry's cousin. After Harry shoots at Stevo, tensions build, & a shootout of epic proportions occurs.

The cast is amazing. Ben Wheatley's direction is excellent. The screenplay by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump is brilliant. The editing by Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump is excellent. And the production design by Paki Smith is stunning. This is the best film of the year so far.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Fate of the Furious


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I don't think I need to remind you why you chose to be here." "I got no choice!" That's a part of an argument between Charlize Theron & Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious, one of the best films in the Fast & Furious franchise. Diesel reprises his role as Dominic "Dom" Toretto, who is approached by cyberterrorist Cipher (played by Charlize Theron) to work for her. After declining at first, Dom is shown something by Cipher that changes his mind. After working on a job in Berlin with Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson), Letty Toretto (played by Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pearce (played by Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (played by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) & Ramsey (played by Nathalie Emmanuel), Dom forces Hobbs off the road, eventually leading to the arrest of the rest of the crew. Hobbs is imprisoned with Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), who the crew defeated in Furious 7. Eventually, Hobbs & the crew are forced by Mr. Nobody (played by Kurt Russell) & Little Nobody (played by Scott Eastwood) to work with Shaw to find Dom & get him back.

The cast is great. F. Gary Gray's direction is excellent. Chris Morgan's screenplay is excellent. And the editing by Christian Wagner & Paul Rubell is excellent. This is definitely an over-the-top but excellent film.

Gifted


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"We've discussed this ad nauseam." "What's ad nauseam?" "Oh, you don't know? Well, it looks like someone needs school." That's a witty excerpt of an argument between Chris Evans & McKenna Grace in Gifted, an amazingly heartwarming film. Evans plays Frank Adler, a boat repair man in Tampa, Florida. He lives with his 7-year-old niece, Mary (played by McKenna Grace), who is just about to start her first day in public school. She had been home schooled by Frank, after he became her guardian after his sister, Diane, died when Mary was 6 months old. At the time, Diane was a promising mathematician dedicated to solving the Navier-Stokes problem, one of the 7 unsolved Millenium Prize Problems. Mary has mastered advanced calculus among many other subjects under Frank's teachings. Frank has decided now to enter Mary into the public school system in order for her to make friends & have better social skills; however, Frank's landlady & friend, Roberta Taylor (played by Octavia Spencer), believes that Mary will be taken away because of her advanced knowledge. At school, Mary is bored with what she is being taught, & after she shows her remarkably advanced knowledge, her teacher, Bonnie Stevenson (played by Jenny Slate), believes that Mary is a child prodigy. The principal of the school offers Mary a scholarship to agifted school, since she is friends with the school's headmaster; however, Frank declines, once again stating that Mary needs a normal life.

A few days later, Frank's estranged mother, Evelyn (played by Lindsay Duncan), arrives in Tampa, seeking custody of Mary, believing Mary is a one-of-a-kind child prodigy that needs to be dedicated to mathematics. However, Frank wants her to be a kid, saying that Diane would've wanted that. Eventually, Frank & Evelyn face off in court, raising the question: Should a child prodigy have time to be a kid, or should the child try to become a genius in their respective field of excellence?

The cast is amazing. Marc Webb's direction is excellent. Tom Flynn's screenplay is amazing. And Bill Pankow's editing is excellent. This is one of the best films of the year so far.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kong: Skull Island


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Who's winning the war?" "Which one?" "That makes sense, I guess." That's a hilarious excerpt of a conversation between John C. Reilly & Tom Hiddleston in Kong: Skull Island, an absolutely crazy film. Set in 1973, Hiddleston plays Capt. James Conrad, a former British Special Air Service tracker. He has been hired by U.S. government agent Bill Randa (played by John Goodman) to map out an uncharted territory in the Pacific Ocean known as Skull Island. They are escorted by a Vietnam War helicopter squad led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) & his subordinates, Major Jack Chapman (played by Toby Kebbell), Capt. Earl Cole (played by Shea Whigham), Gunner Reles (played by Eugene Cordero), & Warrant Officers Glenn Mills (played by Jason Mitchell) & Reg Slivko (played by Thomas Mann). Also joining them are: anti-war photojournalist Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson); Harvard seismologist Houston Brooks (played by Corey Hawkins); biologist San Lin (played by Jing Tian); & Landsat employees Victor Nieves (played by John Ortiz) & Steve Woodward (played by Marc Evan Jackson). Upon arriving, bombs are dropped to map out the island, but the helicopters are attacked by Kong (motion-capture played by Terry Notary), a huge gorilla. 

After crashing, Randa's plan for coming to the island is discovered: he wanted to prove creatures like Kong exist. Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, Lin, Slivko & Nieves try to get to the north end of the island, while the others try to find Kong & kill him. Conrad's group meets with Hank Marlow (played by John C. Reilly), an American soldier who has been stranded on the island for 30 years. Marlow tells them that Kong is God to the natives on the island, & that Kong is not the evil one on the island; those are the Skullcrawlers, who killed Kong's ancestors. Now, Conrad's group must find Packard's group & stop them from going after Kong.

The cast is amazing. Jordan Vogt-Roberts's direction is excellent. The screenplay by John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein & Derek Connelly is brilliant. The cinematography by Larry Fong is amazing. The editing by Richard Pearson is excellent. The production design by Stefan Dechant is amazing. The film score by Henry Jackman is excellent. And the visual effects are astounding. This is an insanely amazing film.

The Zookeeper's Wife


★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Maybe that's why I love animals so much. You look in their eyes & you know exactly what's in their hearts." That's an excellent quote from Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife, a great but somewhat flawed film. The film is based on the 2007 book The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman, which was based on the true story of Antonina & Jan Żabiński. Set in 1939, Chastain plays Antonina Żabiński, a zookeeper at the Warsaw Zoo, along with her husband, Jan Żabiński (played by Johan Heldenbergh). Berlin Zoo director Lutz Heck (played by Daniel Brühl), known for being Hitler's zoologist & for performing infamous experiments, tries to make advances towards the zoo & Antonina.

On September 1, 1939, Poland is invaded by the Nazis, beginning World War II. Soon after, the Nazis begin to take the Jews out of the city & into the Ghetto. Eventually, Antonina & Jan decide to hide some Jews in the zoo, as many of the animals have been killed or slaughtered, although they know what the consequences of defying the Nazis could be. As they hide more & more Jews, the stakes get higher, & the danger of being discovered becomes more & more imminent.

The acting is excellent. Niki Caro's direction is excellent. Angela Workman's screenplay is great. The cinematography by Andrij Parekh is stunning. The film score by Harry Gregson-Williams is amazing. The costume design by Bina Daigeler is amazing. And the production design by Suzie Davies is stunning. Although the narrative is flawed, it's still a deeply moving film about an amazing people who saved many people from imminent death.